Saturday, November 28, 2009

Exerpts from the Journal of Horace Purdy, Danbury, December 29-31, 1860

Saturday December 29th 1860 Danbury

“ The news from the revolutionists in South Carolina and the traitors at the seat of government in Washington are more alarming every day.”

Sunday December 30th 1860 Danbury

“A proclamation was read from our Governor ([William] Buckingham) in perseverance of one from the President ([James] Buchanan) (traitor as he is showing himself to be to the country) for Friday the 4th of January 1861 to be set apart for fasting and prayer. Our Governor has made some suitable amendments to it and out of respect for him it will undoubtedly be observed.”

Monday December 31st 1860 Danbury

“I rose and went to the shop rather earlier than usual. I finished two hats which I had left over from Saturday and then had to wait until after 2 o’clock pm before I could get anymore. I went to teachers meeting in the eve. ------ news reach us again today. It is reported that the President has consented to surrender the forts in Charleston Harbor to the Carolinians (Traitors and Revolutionists) and recall Major Anderson from Fort Sumter. General [Winfield] Scott has written to Anderson and tells him that he did right and to hold his position and he will bear him out in it by heading the Northern Army and putting down treason and rebellion. At least this is the report.

It is reported here this eve that a telegraphic dispatch states that Buchanan has resigned his office as President of the United States. I hope it is true for it may prevent a collision between the South Carolina and Federal troops.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Excerpts from the Journal of Horace Purdy, Danbury, December 17-28, 1860

Monday December 17th 1860 Danbury

“Today is the day for the succession convention in South Carolina. I have had work in the shop. I went to market in the eve and called with Gussie at the church where the Sunday School were met for the anniversary.”

Friday December 21st 1860 Danbury

“Pleasant and warm with some mud. No work in the shop. The daily papers brings us news today that South Carolina passed her secession ordinance on [space left blank]. I went to drill in the eve. The company adjourned until the first Friday in April with the exception of the January general meeting.” [South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860].

Thursday December 27th 1860 Danbury

“It was reported when the evening train came in that Fort Moultry [sic] at Chareleston South Carolina was on fire, the guns spiked, and a train laid to blow it up.” .” [Fort Moultrie was abandoned by Federal troops on January 26th].

Friday December 28th 1860 Danbury

“A pleasant day. The report which we had last night is corroborated in the papers today. Major [Robert] Anderson spiked the guns and burned the gun carriages and retreated to Fort Sumter to strengthen his position. It would now be impossible for any force however large to take Sumter even with the Major’s small force. The Carolinians are very indignant at the movements of Anderson for they calculated to take Fort Sumter from the Government themselves.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Private Horace Purdy, Infantry Co. E, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry

Horace Purdy was 26 years old on April 12, 1861, the day South Carolina troops opened their bombardment of Fort Sumter, near Charleston. Seven days later on April 19th, Purdy was mustered into the 1st Connecticut Volunteer Regiment as a private. This blog will focus on Purdy's experiences through the months leading up to the war, his enlistment and day to day activities of his regiment, culminating in the disbanding of the regiment after the First Battle of Bull Run due to expired enlistments .

Purdy was a "three month man", one of thousands of men in the north who responded to President Abraham Lincoln's call for troops after the fall of Fort Sumter.

Purdy was from Danbury Connecticut and at the time of his enlistment worked as a hatter, although after the war he sold insurance through his own company, Purdy and Son. Like many young men from the north he was heavily involved with his church (Methodist - his father in law was a reverend). He was a Republican (for the rest of his life), pro-union, and a member of the Wooster Light Guards, a local militia unit. This unit made up much of Company E of the 1st Regiment.

Purdy was born in Danbury on November 11, 1835 to Augustus Purdy and Nancy Mills. He had six siblings, only two of which survived to adulthood; Harriet, his senior by four years, and a younger bother George who was 19 when the war broke out.

Horace married Anne Augusta Griswold on December 3, 1857. In April of 1861 she is 25 years old and pregnant with their first child, a boy who would be born at the end of August. Although this child would die before the age of three, Anne ("Gussie") and Horace would have two more children, George Lincoln (born 1864) and Frances "Fannie" Grant (born 1872). I am a direct descendant of Fannie Purdy.

Gussie was directly descended from two prominent families in Connecticut history, the Websters and the Griswolds. On the Webster side, Gussie's lineage stretched back to the Honorable John Webster who was the 5th governor of the Connecticut Colony (Noah Webster of dictionary fame is a distant relative). The Griswold lineage also stretches back to England, and Griswold's played major parts in the founding of many towns in Connecticut and in the western reserve (now Ohio). Indeed there is a town of Griswold, a Fort Griswold and a Griswold Museum in Connecticut today.

Horace did not re-enlist in another unit after his three-month stint. He continued as a hatter until 1869 and then started his insurance business until his death. On October 22, 1889 he attended the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment's reunion at Gettysburg, accompanied by his younger brother George who had fought with that regiment in that battle.

Horace Purdy died on April 2, 1909 at the age of 74. The photo was taken near the end of his life and is the only existing photo. A photo taken in New Haven, CT in April of 1861 and sent to his wife is missing and most likely lost.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Key References for the 1st Connecticut Volunteer Regiment

In future posts I will be drawing heavily on published accounts of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Connecticut Regiments as well as the personal letters and diary that I possess. Although there is much published information on the First Battle of Bull Run, Keyes Brigade played such a minor role that they are barely covered in most accounts, and much of that information is repeated between references. Add to this that these regiments were only in existance for three months and only fought in a single major engagement an you can understand whay information on these regiments is hard to find. However, persistance can pay off and I list below the key references that I found provide the best information. I hope that there are more that I am unaware of and I appreciate any more information that anyone can provide.

Bailey, J.M. and S.B. Hill. 1896. The History of Danbury, Conn. 1684-1896. Burr Printing House, New York.

Ballard, T. 2004. Staff Ride Guide - Battle of Bull Run. Center of Military History United States Army, Washington D.C.

Beatie Jr., R. H. 1964. Road to Manassas. Cooper Square Publishers Inc., New York.

Croffut, W.A., and J.M. Morris. 1869. The Military and Civil History of Connecticut during the War of 1861-65. Ledyard Bill, New York.

Detzer, D. 2004. Donnybrook, the Battle of Bull Run, 1861. Harcourt, Inc.

Fry, J.B. 1884. Tyler and McDowell in the Campaign of Bull Run 1861. D. Van Nostrand, New York.

Hines, B. 2002. Civil War Volunteer Sons of Connecticut. American Patriot Press, Thomaston, ME.

Johnston, R.M. 1913. Bull Run: Its Strategy and Tactics. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York.

Keyes, E.D. 1884. Fifty Years' Observation of Men and Events Civil and Military. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

McDonald, J. M. 1999. We Shall Meet Again: The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) July 18-21, 1861. Oxford University Press.

Morse, H.J. 1864. Catalogue of Connecticut Volunteer Organizations with additional enlistments and casualties to July 1, 1864. Case, Lockword and Company, Hartford.

Swift, L.L. 1965. Bully for the First Connecticut: The recollections of a three-month volunteer. Lincoln Herald 67(2):72-82.

Tyler, E.B. 1872. "Wooden Nutmegs" at Bull Run. George L. Colburn, Hartford.

United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Series I, Vol. 2. Government Printing Office, Washington DC.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Regimental History of the 1st Connecticut Volunteers

Although I linked to this document in my initial post I wanted to repost it here for future reference. To me one of the really special things about going through letters and diaries of historic events is seeing how well they jive with published reports of the same events.

Colonel George S. Burnham was made the commanding officer of the 1st Connecticut following the promotion of Col. Daniel Tyler to Brigadier General. As recently recounted by Harry Smeltzer on his Bullrunnings blog, there is much confusion in most resources as to who was in command of the 1st Connecticut during the First Battle of Bull Run. Most list Lieutenant Colonel John Speidal of Bridgeport, who was originally the Captain of Rifle Company B. This is because Speidal is noted prominently in Gen. Keyes official report of the battle, whereas Burnham is not mentioned at all. However, Burnham did write a report of the battle to Keyes but for some reason it was not included in the official reports. It is clear from several sources, including this report and several newspaper articles that Burnham was in command. In letters by his soldiers Burnham is often accused of being drunk; however, in his report he states that he suffers from 'neuraligy' (a nervous disorder), which would account for this appearance.

History of the First Connecticut Volunteers


The First Regiment of the three months’ men was recruited under the proclamation of President Lincoln, issued Monday, April 15, 1861, and the call of Governor Buckingham issued the day following.

Anticipating the call of the Governor, recruiting had begun so promptly that by the 16th many companies were ready to report with more than the minimum required, and Rifle Company A of Hartford, with George S. Burnham, Captain, Joseph R. Hawley, 1st Lieutenant, Albert W. Drake, 2d Lieutenant, had completed its organization with full ranks. This company and Rifle Company A, Captain John C. Comstock, left Hartford for the rendezvous at New Haven, April 20th. The regiment was at once organized with Dan. Tyler of Norwich, as Colonel, George S. Burnham, Lieut.-Colonel, and John L. Chatfield, Major.

The regiment was at first quartered in the buildings of Yale College and wherever shelter could be found, but soon went into camp in a vacant lot in the western part of the town, where the different companies were mustered into United States service, and immediately began work in earnest at company and regimental drill. On May 10th the regiment embarked for Washington on the steamer “Bienville,” and on the same day Colonel Tyler, who was a West Point graduate and had seen regular army service, was made Brigadier-General of Volunteers; Lieut.-Colonel Burnham being promoted to the full Colonelcy of the regiment.

The First arrived at Washington via Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac May 13th and proceeded at once to camp at “Glenwood,” about two miles north of the Capitol. May 31st Lieut.-Colonel Chatfield was promoted to the Colonelcy of the Third Regiment, vice Arnold resigned. Major Spiedel was made Lieut.-Colonel and Captain Theodore Byxbee of Meriden, was made Major.

These were days of intense excitement in Washington, and false alarms were frequent, but cool heads were in control of the Connecticut Brigade. On the day of Colonel Ellsworth’s funeral, all Washington was subjected to a false alarm, the long roll was sounded, and the First was hastily ordered out and marched to Long Bridge, when the alarm having subsided it was ordered back to camp.

At midnight, June 1st, the regiment broke camp at Glenwood and crossing Long Bridge, marched to Roach’s Mills on the Alexandria & Leesburg railroad, where it established camp, relieving the 12th New York. About June 16th a detachment of the First, under Colonel Burnham, was ordered up the railroad as escort to General Tyler in a reconnaissance. The train was made up of miserable rolling stock, and the couplings parted so frequently that the detachment was compelled to return after passing a short distance beyond Vienna. As the train was passing Vienna on its return, it was fired into from an ambuscade, and George H. Bugbee, of Infantry Company A, was severely wounded. If we except Major Theodore Winthrop, who fell at Big Bethel seven days earlier, this was the first blood of a Connecticut soldier in the Civil war.

The next day the First was ordered on the same duty, but was relieved by the 1st and 2d Ohio regiments, the 1st Connecticut going to the grounds in the vicinity of Long Bridge, where with a large number of other regiments it was reviewed by the Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War. As the review closed the First was ordered hurriedly to the relief of the Ohio regiments which had been fired into at Vienna. On the next day the First went into camp at Falls Church, then considerably in advance of the main lines – a position peculiarly exposed to attack, as the rebels could easily reach its rear by way of either Balls’ or Bailey’s Cross Roads.

The First Regiment was joined by the Second on the next day, and soon after by the Third Connecticut and the Second Maine regiments, all of which were organized as a brigade, under command of Colonel Erasmus D. Keyes. On July 16th the entire army under immediate command of General McDowell began its advance toward Manassas, and Keyes Brigade, designated as the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, had the advance – the First Regiment covering the left of the head of column as skirmishers and the Second covering the right. They bivouacked the first night at Vienna, and the second at Germantown, arriving at Centerville on the 18th.

At midnight of Saturday, July 20th, the brigade was advanced via Warrentown road toward Bull Run, and was detached to guard the Warrentown road during the detour of the flanking column via Sudley Ford. It remained in this position until about 10 A.M., when it was beyond Youngs Branch, farther west.

Colonel Keyes in his official report said:

“The order to advance was given at about ten o’clock A.M., and from that hour to four P.M. my brigade was in constant activity on the field of battle. The First Regiment Connecticut Volunteers was met by a body of cavalry and infantry, which it repelled, and at several other encounters at different parts of the line the enemy constantly retired before us.

“Before recrossing Bull Run, and until my brigade mingled with the retreating mass, it maintained perfect freedom from panic, and at the moment I received the order for retreat, and for some time afterward, it was in as good order as in the morning on the road. Half an hour earlier I supposed the victory to be ours.”

Before night-fall the entire brigade reached its former campground at Centerville in good order, and under orders, bivouacked as was supposed for the night; the men suffering much from fatigue, at once going to sleep on their arms. About 10 o’clock P.M. peremptory orders came to continue the retreat to Falls Church. The road was now comparatively clear, as the disorganized part of the army was already far advanced on its way to Washington. About 9 A.M. the next day the regiment arrived at Falls Church, and, in a drenching rain, struck its tents and dispatched its entire camp and garrison equipage, together with that of the Second Maine, which had left the brigade, to Alexandria. The three Connecticut regiments marched that night to the camp of the First and Second Ohio regiments, which they found deserted. Occupying this standing camp during the night, it spent all day Tuesday, July 23d, in packing and sending to Alexandria the camp and garrison equipage of the First and Second Ohio and the Second New York regiments, leaving not a vestige of anything useful to fall into the hands of the enemy.

General Tyler in his report says:

“At seven o’clock on Tuesday evening, I saw the three Connecticut regiments, with two thousand bayonets, march under the guns of Fort Corcoran in good order, after having saved us not only a large amount of public property, but the mortification of seeing our standing camps fall into the hands of the enemy.”

The First remained in Washington until July 27th, when (their term of service having expired on the 22d) it started for New Haven, where, after tedious delays, it arrived and was mustered out on July 31st. The regiment was splendidly armed and equipped; eight companies with Springfield rifled muskets, and the two flank companies with Sharps rifles. The clothing was much of it very inferior, though all possible effort was made to remedy the defect.

A few of the companies were old militia organizations which preferred to retain their old regimental letters, thereby occasioning some confusion, but the exigencies of that short term of service did not warrant dallying with trifles. Too much credit can never be accorded the members of the three months’ regiments, who from pure patriotism, without promise or hope of bounty or reward, eagerly enlisted to repel the enemies of their country; and who had with still greater alacrity would have enlisted for the war had the call of President Lincoln permitted it.

This early service was an excellent school for the citizen soldiers of the State, and by far the larger part of those who participated were soon again in the service for three years or the war, fully one hundred and eighty from the 1st Regiment holding commissions. Connecticut can always look back with pride on her three months’ volunteers of 1861.


Wounded: 6
Captured: 6
Discharged due to Disability: 25

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Welcome to Three Month Men, a site dedicated to the First Connecticut Volunteer Regiment in the American Civil War. Although this unit was only in existance for a little more than three months (April 19 - July 31, 1861) and fought in only a single major engagement (First Manassas or First Bull Run), regiments such as these were crucial in the initial defense of the North (as well as the initial invasion of th south) in the early months of the war. This regiment is typical of those that answered President Lincoln's call for volunteers after the bombing of Fort Sumter in April of 1861.

I have been researching this regiment for nearly 20 years based mainly on the war diary and letters of Horace Purdy, a private in Infantry Company E. These resources are extremely detailed and provide almost daily recollections of the actions of this unit. Unfortunately other information on this regiment is difficult to find other than the brief regimental history written by the commander George S. Burnham, as well as a post battle report also written by Burnham and an article written by another member of the regiment. However, the First Connecticut was brigaded with the 2nd and 3rd Connecticut regiments as well as the 2nd Maine and information exists for these units in particular a detailed book.

This blog will draw from all of these resources. In particular I hope to provide a chronological progression of excepts from Horace Purdy's diary and letters in weekly posts that will bring you through events leading up to the war and through to the Battle of Bull Run. This will be supplemented by other material from the three connecticut regiments (particularly the 1st) which I already possess and that I hope to obtain. Eventually I would like to put the full text of the letters, diary, and other regimental information into book form.